When we first began SmartBooks, there was one question that we were often asked by potential customers. As SmartBooks grew, it was asked more and more frequently—“So how are you different from QuickBooks?” In the beginning, we didn’t mind answering this question. It was a great opportunity to explain exactly what SmartBooks does, which acts as an outsourced accounting and bookkeeping department for small and midsized businesses. Being associated with and compared to QuickBooks has its disadvantages, but it’s also a well-known and respected brand known for accounting, so it wasn’t a total negative for us.
Truthfully, it was a perfectly understandable mistake. SmartBooks, after all, sounds and looks a little similar to QuickBooks. Our tagline, “Is Your Bookkeeping an Asset?” was clever, but it didn’t explain our specific services, only that we were related to bookkeeping. Our former logo was a blue owl, and though well liked, it did not communicate anything about our company’s services.
We continued to grow, and this question was asked more and more. Not only were we asked this at tradeshows, events, and other sponsorship opportunities when someone had only glanced at our logo and tagline, it was also asked by people who had visited our website. This told us that we were not communicating effectively with our logo and tagline. As more businesses are interacting with each other online instead of in person, it’s becoming more critical than ever that companies can quickly and accurately communicate. Online communication is measured in seconds, not minutes. If someone had to spend a few minutes reading our website just to figure out what services we provide, that meant that we were not communicating efficiently, and we were probably losing out on potential business in the process.
We realized that our logo and tagline were not working in two crucial ways, and for us to continue to grow, this needed to be fixed. For one, we needed a logo that was memorable and distinctly our own. The owl logo was ultimately too generic, and many other companies used an owl for their logo as well. In addition, we needed a logo and tagline that described our services. When a potential customer sees our logo, tagline, and name, we want them to immediately recognize that we are an outsourced bookkeeping solution, and not just a software provider. Clearly, our current logo and tagline were not up to the task.
Changing Our Branding
There are many potential pitfalls when a company suddenly changes its logo and its tagline at the same time. Especially when a company is already established, this can be a costly risk if the company makes the wrong changes or rolls the changes out incorrectly. Making any type of change would be a significant investment. In addition to the time and money it would cost to create the new logo and tagline, we would also have to update all apparel, signage, social media, web content, tradeshow booths, and any other important materials.
Most of our customers and others in the industry already associated us with our original logo and tagline, so we would also need to make sure that our changes would be recognized and accepted, and this would not happen overnight. Most importantly, would the market, our clients, and our staff embrace and identify with the new branding? If these communities did not embrace our new logo and tagline, we would be left owning a costly mistake. We decided we should get feedback from our own employees, our clients, and the communities where we do our work, so that we could make effective improvements.
Updating Our Tagline and Company Values
We began by surveying our employees and asking them if they thought our tagline could be improved to better communicate what we do, when the majority agreed, we knew that we needed to move forward with this. At the same time, we knew we needed to clarify our Core Values. After a couple iterations over the years, we had nine company values that spelled out the acronym ASSERTIVE. We needed a more meaningful and concise list. We then asked our employees to tell us the top five things that they think our clients valued—the real reasons clients bought from us instead of other providers. This exercise was tremendously useful and motivated us to simplify our company’s values and pare them down to four core values: Be Accountable, Deliver Efficient and Scalable Solutions, Explain the Numbers, and Enjoy Your Work..
With the list of things that our clients valued the most, we then asked our employees for ideas for a new tagline. During the brainstorming, we requested that everyone reply to everyone with their ideas, so that we could all bounce off each other and build the tagline together. After a few weeks and hundreds of emails, we arrived at a great new tagline—“The Accounting Team You Can Count On.” In contrast to our last tagline, this one clearly communicated that SmartBooks was a team of skilled accountants that supported a company’s bookkeeping and reporting, and not just another software solution. In addition, it emphasized our reliability and professionalism.
Developing Our New Logo
With our new tagline created, it was time for us to create our new logo. We worked with Alphabet Arm to design the logo as well as rebrand our company and materials. Although we had limited direction for our logo refresh, we were sure about two things—the new logo needed to be unique to SmartBooks and it had to somehow include an owl motif. Our goal was to have a logo that was distinct and memorable, something that could be compared to the McDonalds Golden Arches, Nike Swoosh, the Olympic Rings, or the Shell Seashell.
When the first round of drafts came in, we presented these to our management team for feedback.. However, our team was not able to agree on any specific logo, and some preferred that we keep our original blue owl. We investigated why our original logo was still a popular choice and discovered that it was due primarily to its familiarity. With no clear parameters or direction, everyone was making decisions based on their own artistic preferences, and we realized that this would never come to a consensus.
This forced us to switch up our approach. We decided that the decision would be made by a smaller team including the Founder. We also decided that a new logo would not be chosen unless it was unique to SmartBooks and communicated the type of services we provide. After 12 weeks and countless revisions and tweaks, we decided on our official new logo. Our new logo depicts a digital report and incorporates an image of the owl into the design. Seeing the powerful familiarity and affection for our old owl logo reinforced the belief thatwe should retain the owl image, and we also liked that the owl represents wisdom and knowledge. We kept our original primary colors and added a complementary color, light blue. This gave us a new color to work with and made our branding and materials look fresh and new. Finally, we made a slight change to our font to make it look cleaner and easier to maintain consistency with type. We were finished.
By incorporating our employees’ insights and what our clients value, we were able to completely revamp our tagline and logo without losing what makes SmartBooks distinctive and valuable. We hope you love our new look as much as we do!
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